Forecasts stayed mostly steady with earlier projections on Wednesday evening as an 8 p.m. update indicated that Hurricane Matthew will bring its most severe weather Friday night into Saturday.
Hurricane watches were issued for the coast of Georgia and a hurricane warning was in effect for almost the entire east coast of Florida as the update was issued. No watches or warnings had yet been issued for Horry or Georgetown counties.
“Tropical storm or hurricane conditions could affect South Carolina and North Carolina later this week or this weekend, even if the center of Matthew remains offshore,” forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center read. “It is too soon to determine what, if any, land areas might be directly affected by Matthew next week.”
A chance of significant beach erosion, flash flooding and road washouts are possible for the area as Hurricane Matthew approaches the South Carolina coast, according to a 7 p.m. briefing from the National Weather Service.
While the forecast predicts the center of the storm will stay offshore, the entire South Carolina coast remains within the cone of uncertainty.
“There is a high level of uncertainty of this track once it is north of Georgia, as several weather models bring the track closer to the coast and recurve the storm later,” the briefing said.
Winds through Sunday morning could gust as high as 66 mph, according to the briefing. That projection, however, was highly dependent on the current predicted path of the storm, and wind could be more or less severe based on changes in the actual path. Rain was expected to begin Friday, with the hardest rain coming Friday night through Saturday.
At a 6 p.m. news conference, Gov. Nikki Haley said evacuations could be ordered for Georgetown and Horry counties at noon Thursday. Only Zone A, the area east of King’s Highway and closest to the coast, would be ordered to evacuate.
She said the changing forecast, which has altered the track of the storm multiple times Wednesday, was forcing officials to make “fluid” decisions. About 200,000 are expected to be evacuated from Horry and Georgetown counties starting tomorrow.
“We’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions (Wednesday) watching that (forecast), and I think we’re going to continue to,” Haley said.
The most recent forecast keeps Hurricane Matthew on track to skirt the coast of eastern Florida and then bend east as it approaches northeastern South Carolina, likely as a Category 2, according to the 8 p.m. update. It predicts that by Sunday, the storm will move further into the Atlantic, and then on Monday, it will bend its path to the southeast.
John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service said residents should pay attention to the cone of uncertainty, not the exact track, as impacts will be felt outside the center of the storm.
“How long (Matthew) stays off the South Carolina coast before going offshore is a little uncertain,” he said at the 6 p.m. news conference.